Heard Up on the Boardwalk and Down by the Beach
By Jamie Jensen
At 6:30 every morning I wake up to stunning views of the sunrise on Long Island Sound. I leash up my 11-year-old Golden Retriever, Shoalie, and head out for my morning walk at Rye Town Park with a committed group of early risers. Over the years, we have joked that there is a sitcom waiting to be written that captures our daily pilgrimage circling the park.
We talk about the weather and our kids, share personal stories, and comment on the state of politics, both local and national. We exchange opinions about the latest Netflix/HBO/Prime series, Trump tweet, football scores. We share in the grief of our neighbors who have lost a beloved pet (Dewey and Sala come to mind this month).
We are decidedly not dressed to impress. With muddy boots and well-worn coats covering our mismatched attire of pajama bottoms and tattered T-shirts, we look forward to the familiar faces. There is an unspoken agreement: complaining is kept to a minimum. Nevertheless, our opinions about the Barley Beach House, garbage can placement, the current state of the pond and the grass, and the orange plexiglass swing/art installation come up regularly.
And yes, everyone agrees that the compostable poop bags, installed by the Town Park, are really bad. Hear me now: They are just there for emergencies, folks. Keep your hands clean; bring your own bags. Picking up after your dog is critical and everyone has unspoken permission to police each other on poop pick up. It’s your duty (pun intended).
Dog walkers are not the only off-season park lovers. There are many walkers/runners who bear the bracing wind and cold and purr like happy cats when the warm sun graces them on those unseasonably warm days.
Rosario Benavides and Pilar Bustamante, both Rye moms with high school and college-age children, walk most mornings from the park across the Boardwalk and into Edith Read Sanctuary (no matter what the temperature). Pilar said it simply, “This is where I come to find my energy.” Rosario walks in the wee hours, camera in hand, “to enjoy the beauty and the quiet.”
When the weekend of January 11th rolled around and the temperature along the waterfront neared 70 degrees, more than the usual suspects were out. Couples were sighted strolling hand-in-hand along the beach. Neighbors who usually head to their clubs for tennis or golf were out walking, stopping to chat with friends met along the way. Parents and grandparents in their shirtsleeves tossed balls and rode bikes with their children. In the words of local Audrey Cavanaugh,
“Who didn’t feel surprised, elated, and terribly grateful for that spectacularly clear day in January? Especially when you realize the best playground is in your backyard. And you get to run to the beach to build sandcastles!”
On beautiful weekends, you are bound to run into an elected official as well. You might see County Legislator and US Congressional primary candidate Catherine Parker, with her dog, Lucy, on the Boardwalk. Maybe it’s Mayor Cohn strolling down by the Park Pavilions or former Councilwoman Emily Hurd taking a run at Edith Read. You may also see your favorite local teacher, coach, or friendly neighborhood police officer taking a break from duty to enjoy time with their own kids, spouses, and dogs. It all feels very Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to me. This is why we live in Rye.